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Public-sector workers say they will not take lectures on hard work from people who have partied through this crisis following pressure from the government to ‘return to the office’

Industrial reporter @TrinderMatt

PUBLIC-SECTOR workers “will not take lectures on hard work” from those who have partied throughout the pandemic, the Prospect union has stressed amid Tory pressure for a return to office working.

The professionals’ union slammed media speculation that those working from home during the crisis had been slacking off as “nonsense not borne out by the facts.”

Ministers who reportedly want civil servants back in offices to “show an example to the private sector” are also making assumptions that “diverge significantly from the actuality of the situation,” the union added. 

Last week, the government dropped its work-from-home guidance, reintroduced in December as the omicron variant of Covid-19 began to spread rapidly, as part of its plans to relax Plan B restrictions.

Campaigners and unions have urged caution, accusing Prime Minister Boris Johnson of distraction tactics as reports of multiple lockdown parties — in No 10 Downing Street and at his official residence above No 11 next door — rock his administration.

While most people have had to remain in traditional workplaces during the pandemic, estimates suggest about a third have worked from home, either exclusively or as part of a hybrid arrangement, since March 2020.

Prospect called for a blend of office and home working to continue where possible as it is an effective model for employers and helps to “keep staff safe and support their wellbeing.”

Deputy general secretary Garry Graham said: “Wherever they have physically worked, our members in the Civil Service and wider public sector have made an outstanding contribution to keeping us all safe, protected and supported.

“To suggest that staff have not been working hard whilst working from home is a nonsense not borne out by the facts.

“Working hours have increased and in fact, many staff feel they have been ‘living at work’ with increased levels of stress and burnout.

“It is Prospect’s expectation that government employers will indeed be leading by example, not by mandating arbitrary place-of-work requirements but by taking an approach based on balancing operational requirements with the needs of staff.

“I will not be taking lectures on hard work from someone whose definition of a work event appears to involve cheese, wine and a garden.”

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